13th Sunday after Pentecost August 22, 2021


Divine Help for Marriages and Families

Ephesians 5:22-33

Scripture Readings

Deuteronomy 30:11-20
Matthew 19:1-12


8, 790, 624, Worship Supplement 2000 #800:1&4

Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted

+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

In the name of Jesus Christ who is the Head of our Christian families and our Savior, dear fellow redeemed,

Over the years it has been an acknowledged fact that the nuclear family is the very heart and core of human society. This special kind of group, which is made up of a husband and wife and their children, is so central to society that if it were to completely cease to exist, society would crumble and fall apart.

In our lifetime, we have witnessed marriages and families suffer very serious and grievous set backs too numerous to count. This can be seen in the growing number of broken homes and single parent families.

The reasons for this development are many and various. One reason that stands out is a low regard for the sanctity of the marriage union. This has led to couples living together without getting married, or the rupturing and dissolving of marriages.

Many marriages are built upon very shaky and fragile ground. There are marriages simply formed on the basis of an emotional romantic kind of love that doesn’t always last very long. Instead of having a selfless love for their spouse, people have been known to be selfish in the way they treat each other and self-serving in what they decide to do with their lives. Also, when there is no mutually accepted head of the family to make final decisions on various matters, husbands and wives end up butting heads in conflict. And since many do not regard the marriage institution as a sacred, life-long commitment, marriages have very often have been dashed on the rocks in divorce.

Well grounded civic leaders have been heard voicing the need for family units to be firmly established in our country. This includes marriages. However, no social program is going to completely remedy the problems that exist, for much of it has to do with the spiritual aspect of life.

It is the imperfect nature of humans, the unwillingness to submit to God’s will, as well as the lack of Christian love that is basically behind the breakdown of marriages and families. The solution lies with a willingness to look with a receptive spirit to God’s Word for guidance, and a reliance upon it to provide us with the needed strength to overcome difficulties and to persevere.

In the last half century or so, there has been an accelerated movement among women in society which could be called the emancipation movement. Many women have strived to set themselves free from what is perceived as a patriarchal society that unjustly holds women down under men. While this movement has addressed some valid concerns, it has also had an adverse effect upon marriages. This can be seen in wives not being willing to accept their husbands as the head of the family.

This concept of emancipation isn’t really anything new. We can trace it back to the fall into sin by the first married couple in the Garden of Eden.

When the LORD created the first man and then made the first woman to be his helpmeet, He established the holy estate of matrimony. At the same time, God established His divine order in marriage by deciding to have the man be the head of the family. Paul confirms this in our text by writing, For the husband is head of the wife. The apostle also wrote in his letter to Pastor Timothy that the woman was not to have authority over the man, for Adam was formed first, then Eve (1 Timothy 2:12,13).

After God created Adam and Eve, and united them as husband and wife, the LORD’s order in the marriage and home was an agreeable and congenial arrangement. Because Adam was a perfect husband in every way, Eve willingly submitted to his leadership role. However, this attitude changed when the beguiling serpent came and tempted Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit in the Garden. Not only did Eve eat of the forbidden fruit, but she also emancipated herself from her subordinate position to Adam by leading him to eat of the fruit as well.

As a result of their act of disobedience both Adam and Eve became infected with a corrupted nature, and suffered the curse of sin that went along with it. That curse for Eve included this pronouncement by God, Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. (Genesis 3:16) With the entrance of sin and its curse, what was once a natural and pleasing arrangement of the wife being subject to her husband, and the husband taking the lead in providing for and caring for his wife and family became a difficult and burdensome situation. For one thing, the flawed nature in the woman prompted her to fight against God’s divine order concerning her role in marriage. Yet, the difficulties in the marriage did not rest alone with the woman. Since husbands are also sinful by nature, they are not perfect heads of the family. They are not always caring, loving, and considerate of their wives.

While sin found in husbands and wives has made a mess of things in marriage, the LORD through the gift of His saving grace in Christ Jesus made it possible for husbands and wives to have a harmonious and loving relationship under God’s divine order in marriage. In our text Paul speaks of how Jesus Christ gave Himself over into death so that He might sanctify and cleanse us with the washing of the water by the word. This sanctifying and cleansing is not only the removal of the guilt of sin, but also a sanctifying and cleansing of our sin-corrupted hearts and minds, setting us free from the control of our fleshly nature. When we came to faith in Christ through the Word of God in baptism, the LORD gave us spiritual life, instilling in us a new mind and a new spirit that prompts us to love God so that we willingly live according to His will.

It is because of that new spiritual life in us that Paul could make the following appeal to Christian wives, Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

Even as we recognize Jesus as being the head of the Church of believers and willingly submit to Him and His Word, so also Christian wives regard their husbands as the head of the family and willingly submit to his leading authority. Please take special note of the last part of the first verse that we read—as to the Lord. Christian wives willingly submit to their husband’s authority out of love for the Lord who loved them with such a great love.

To Christian husbands the apostle wrote, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it. This kind of love which husbands are called upon to show their wives is not merely a physical, emotional kind of love. No. It is rather the highest form of love.

Paul points to the great love Jesus loved us with as an example of the kind of love that husbands are to show their wives. Jesus’ love for us was a self-giving, self-sacrificing sort of love. In Jesus’ willingness to come down from His heavenly throne and assume a lowly human form, in keeping God’s commandments for us in our place, in life that was completely devoted to the service of others, and in the painful sacrificial death He suffered in our place, Jesus totally and completely gave of Himself out of love for us.

This self-giving, self-sacrificing love of Jesus is the kind of love husbands are to show their wives. By loving in this way husbands will be caring, thoughtful, and considerate of their helpmeet whom God blessed them with. A Christian husband will not want to do or say anything that hurts his life-long companion. And when he exercises his authority as head of the family, he will decide what is best for his wife and family, and not just what is good for him.

While it is true that married couples will never reach that perfect state of harmony like Adam and Eve initially had, nevertheless they can grow in sanctification as they keep on looking to God and His Word. With the Word of God as our guide and the love of Christ as our motivation, couples are able to show a greater mutual love and respect for each other, and a greater willingness to carry out our God-given role in marriage.

We certainly recognize the fact that there are cases where the ideal is not always so easily attained. Such can be the case when one spouse is a Christian and the other is not or when the husband neglects his leadership role in the family, and the wife has to pick up the slack in giving the family some direction. Whatever the difficulties may be, the LORD can help us bear up under any situation and make the best of it.

One thing in marriage that always needs to be taken into account is that both the husband and wife are imperfect sinners. Even though we are Christians who want to live according to God’s will in marriage, we do not always succeed in living up to this high expectation. In view of this, each spouse needs to be forgiving of the other for Jesus’ sake and be there for each other, helping the other to live according to the way God would have us live in marriage. We also need to be reminded and reassured of God’s forgiveness as we repent and turn to Jesus as our Savior from sin. Remembrance of this forgiving love of God not only comforts us, but it also is the source of love, moving us to live in Christian love toward our spouse.

When talking about building up and preserving the family, the marriage union plays an important part in it. As husbands and wives live according to God’s divine order in marriage and in Christian love, one of the most important building blocks of a marriage and family is put in place in establishing a Christian family and home.

May God in His grace bless our marriages and our families for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

—Rev. Mark Gullerud

Sunnyvale, CA

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